A Better Farmers’ Market

“if the community doesn’t have a good way of communicating with each other or the costs of self-organization are too high, then they won’t organize, and there will be failures.” Elinor Ostrom / Nobel Laureate in Economics 2010. http://bit.ly/ctv59M

Ms Ostrom was talking about our natural resources when she gave this quote. The particular article is about her work and teachings on the economics of natural resources.  It’s as good a place as any to start the morning in afterthought about last night’s Wake County Farmers’ Market Managers Meeting and realizing how many wonderful resources we have locally that are under utilized.

As it has been explained to me, many managers in many towns across the country feel like they are in competition with each other for each market customer and somehow there might not be enough to go around.

My point of view is different. I think the market is expanding with many new, highly creative vendors. Current social media platforms allow these folks to “push” the information & their products out to new highly motivated customers that are looking for something. So really understanding what place or niche your farmers’ market fills in your community is the starting point. There are lots of RIGHT answers to this question for every market manager. What’s right for one market may be totally incorrect for another given the local population and a normal radius of 5 miles for a trip to the market. Adjusting for seasonal weather, transportation, physical needs of your clients should all be considered and so much more. You are putting together an “experience” just like the folks at Disney do every day. Close your eyes and think like them. Just imagine what a better market would look, feel, sound and smell like. Use all of your sensory facilities. Now go make it happen!

Another issue that came up during our meeting was how to service the areas in our county that are considered “food deserts”, people using WIC and EBT services, and a whole generation of folks that simply can’t cook real food. Study after study shows a discrepancy in the ability for low income or elderly folks to reach a market where they can learn about and/or have access to healthy foods.  A recent study was conducted in my county by 4-H that highlighted the food deserts in one municipality: http://bit.ly/cpSLw2 Another huge issue is simply the hours of the market. Many employees already have jobs to attend to on Saturday morning. Is there a way to service their needs in a more creative way like delivery to a local school with a mobile market or possibly a farm stand at or near their workplace each week? Maybe organizing delivery right to their workplace each week with descriptions and instructions on preparing food could be helpful? Need to teach cooking lessons? How about lunch time lessons at a workplace or local grocery store with a community room? These ideas are not new and even in our state, good working models exist. Do you have a creative idea to solve a problem like this in your community? If so, please share it in the comments.

In the meantime another great site to visit and share ideas is the  www.farmersmarketcoalition.org. And for additional thoughts on social media platforms and different ways in which people “consume” information here is a great blog that Brian Solis put out today. http://bit.ly/aa4cCR

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